Patent application title: CONDITIONING/MOISTURIZING DEVICE FOR PROCESSING ALMOND KERNELSAANM Roig Borrell; Jose VicenteAACI DeniaAACO ESAAGP Roig Borrell; Jose Vicente Denia ES
Jose Vicente Roig Borrell (Denia, ES)
IPC8 Class: AB02B108FI
Class name: Foods and beverages: apparatus subjecting food to an enclosed modified atmosphere automatic control or time means
Publication date: 2013-01-17
Patent application number: 20130014651
The invention relates to a conditioning/moisturising device for almond
grains, especially designed to provide the grains of the fruit with the
elasticity required in order to cut the grain into flakes, sticks, cubes
or other configurations, with minimum loss through production of flour
and others. The device essentially comprises an elongate body, with a
generally cylindrical shape and tilted position, which includes on the
inside thereof a means for sweeping the almond, made up of a spindle
which sweeps the fruit in an upward direction in a steam-saturated
environment. with controlled temperature, for which purpose the
cylindrical body comprises a plurality of steam injection nozzles, said
steam being distributed externally and fed to said nozzles from an
external steam distributor. The device includes temperature and steam
sensors whose measurements are suitable for regulating the rotating speed
of the spindle in order to adjust the time during which the almond
remains in the environment inside the body.
1. A conditioning/moisturizing device for processing almond grains,
especially a device designed to provide the almond with suitable
elasticity allowing splitting or fragmenting of the grains into flakes,
sticks, cubes or similar configurations generating minimum flour or other
waste, which device is structured on the basis of a generally elongated
body (1) with a cylindrical shape supported by a metal frame (2) in a
tilted position with respect to the horizontal, with an internal spindle
(3) extended longitudinally coinciding with the axis of the cylinder,
designed to sweep the almond in an upward direction from the entrance of
the fruit into the cylinder through a hopper (4) positioned at the lowest
end of the cylinder, to a collecting means (5) located at the upper end
of the cylindrical body (1), the cylindrical body further having a
plurality of steam injection nozzles preferably aligned according to a
generatrix of the cylinder, through which steam is injected into the
cylinder, this steam being generated with external means and fed to the
nozzles through an external distributor (7), extended close to the body
(1) and parallel to the same.
2. The device according to claim 1, characterized in that the spindle (3) is rotated by an external motor (6) provided with means for varying the rotating speed.
3. The device according to claims 1 and 2, characterized in that the cylindrical body (1) further includes temperature and humidity sensors in contact with the environment inside the cylindrical body, whereby the internal temperature and degree of humidity are continuously measured for the purpose of varying and adjusting the rotating speed of the spindle (3) such that the dwell time of the almond as it is moving inside the said cylindrical body (1) can be suitably regulated.
4. The device according to one or more of the claims 1 to 3, characterized in that the temperature of the environment inside the cylindrical body (1) is kept below 60.degree. C. in a steam saturation state.
OBJECT OF THE INVENTION
 The present invention relates to a conditioning/moisturizing device for processing almond kernels, which provides essential novel features and considerable advantages with respect to the means known and used for the same purpose in the current state of the art.
 More particularly, the invention develops a device the object of which is the action of making the almond elastic, i.e., providing it with the elasticity necessary for its subsequent processing in furtherance of producing flakes, sticks, cubes or fragments of another type into which the almond can be cut or split, for the subsequent incorporation thereof into other elaborated products, such that minimum waste or loss through producing almond flours which occur during the sectioning or cutting operation is assured. The device of the invention is designed such that it allows applying on the almond, which is blanched or natural, whichever is appropriate, a controlled amount of steam, keeping the temperature below a pre-established limit, for which purpose the device has been provided with a generally cylindrical body with a predefined length, provided with multiple steam inlets said steam being generated externally with internal longitudinal sweeping means causing complete exposure of the almond to a steam-saturated environment, which results in the product quickly becoming elastic. The device includes humidity and temperature control sensors and control means for controlling the product sweeping speed according to the degree of humidity of the product at the entrance and the desired degree of humidity of the product at the exit.
 The field of application of the invention is comprised in the industrial sector dedicated to manufacturing machines and devices for processing almonds and other nuts and dried fruits.
BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
 Persons skilled in the art know of the various operations to which almond kernels and other nuts and dried fruits are subjected during their processing phase. In the specific case of almonds, once they have been shelled they are presented to the consumer in various manners. On one hand, natural kernel results from breaking the outer shell (endocarp), said kernel consisting of a seed bearing the outer husk or skin. If this husk is extracted, both the kernel obtained and the process for separating the skin are commonly known as "blanched kernel" or "blanching". Once this blanched kernel is obtained, it can now be subjected to fragmenting operations to obtain sections in the form of flakes, sticks, cubes, etc., together with quite a significant amount of flour.
 To blanch kernels today, they are previously immersed for a certain time in a warm water bath such that the husk softens and can then be removed. The drawback of this process is that a considerable amount of humidity is added to the kernel, with all the problems that water activity produces in foods, such that it is necessary to reduce that humidity immediately with the help of dryers and to then cool the kernel for storage.
 However, when almonds have to be processed to obtain flakes, sticks, cubes, etc., if this operation is done on blanched kernels with a degree of humidity of 3 or 4%, considerable waste (flour production) is inevitably produced, in addition to having rather poor quality. This is because the kernel has to be elastic (or flexible) to easily cut it, so it is clear that temperature and humidity parameters must be controlled, all this depending on various factors. In processes used today, these control operations are performed by means of a continuous monitoring system, so there has to be an operator who is dedicated exclusively to feeding the machine.
 Processors today have to divert part of the production of blanched kernels for industrialization, leaving them with a higher percentage of humidity, then they are passed through a machine known as an "elasticizer", where the blanched kernels are heated with the help of gas burners, such that with the action of the heat the kernels become softer, making them easier to cut. This process has drawbacks because, firstly, blanching must be regulated to obtain an almond with humidity, which is difficult to control, and secondly, the almonds must be processed rather quickly to prevent them from spoiling, which is rather impractical; blanched almonds for cutting cannot be purchased, nor can they be blanched and industrialized at the same time.
 The most common manner of working is therefore making flakes and sticks with blanched almonds with little humidity, which almonds are heated with the elasticizer, but the results are not, as stated, very satisfactory. Furthermore, a new market demanding natural kernel flakes, and therefore dry kernel, the elaboration of which is barely profitable with current systems due to the high percentage of waste (flour) that is produced, has recently come about.
 Taking into account the drawbacks of the current art mentioned briefly above, the main objective of the present invention is the development of an elasticizing device for almonds and the like, whereby providing effective solutions to the problems associated with waste and loss in current processes. This objective has been fully met by means of the device that will be described below, the essential features of which are described in the characterizing part of the attached claim 1.
 Essentially, the elasticizing device proposed by the invention is typically based on thorough control of the humidity acting on the almond object of treatment, for which purpose the device consists of an elongated body or casing with a generally cylindrical shape, the inside of which houses sweeping means for sweeping the product preferably consisting of a spindle (or worm screw), extended longitudinally, axially coinciding with the axis of the device. The body has a plurality of steam inlet nozzles through which steam is supplied, said steam coming from an external generator, into the inner space of the body of the device, the process being controlled with respect to temperature and degree of humidity inside by means of suitable sensors. The device further comprises elements for regulating the rotating speed of the product sweep spindle, depending on both the mentioned parameters of humidity and temperature, so that the dwell time of the product as it is moving inside the body of the device is only the time necessary to provide the almond with the right amount of humidity for correct elasticizing thereof, and to also reduce the need for subsequent drying with the subsequent energy savings this entails.
 The device of the invention therefore allows assuring satisfactory results in terms of elasticizing the almond, favorably solving the problems affecting devices and machines of the current art, as mentioned above. The processing operations for processing the product are further simplified, with the subsequent economic savings this entails in terms of production expenses.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 These and other features and advantages of the invention will become clearer from the following detailed description of a preferred embodiment thereof given only by way of non-limiting example in reference to the attached drawings in which:
 FIG. 1 is a general schematic side elevational view of a conditioning/moisturizing device for elasticizing almonds, according to the invention.
DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT
 As mentioned above, the detailed description of the conditioning and moisturizing device for elasticizing the fruit of almonds will be provided below with the aid of the attached drawings, the sole figure of which uses reference numbers to designate the different parts making it up. Therefore, in relation to said FIG. 1, a schematic representation of a side elevational view of a hydrating device for fruits such as almonds can be seen, whereby said fruits are provided, as stated, with elasticity features that allow them to be cut or fractioned in different forms: flakes, sticks, cubes, or other configurations. The device is structured based on an elongated body, pointed out with reference number 1, with a generally cylindrical shape, in turn functioning as an internally hollow external casing, supported by a lower metal frame 2 in a tilted position with respect to the horizontal. A spindle 3 extended longitudinally in a position coinciding with the axis of the cylinder is housed inside the cylinder 1, said spindle being driven to rotate by means of a motor 6 equipped with speed regulating means, which spindle 3 is provided to sweep the almond in an upward direction from a supply hopper 4 located at the lowest end of the cylindrical body 1, to a collecting device 5 located in a position corresponding with the upper end of said cylindrical body 1. A plurality of steam nozzles are arranged along a generatrix of the body of the cylinder, fed from a steam distributor 7 extending longitudinally near the cylindrical body 1 and parallel to same, the latter being connected to an external steam generator (not depicted). The device further includes conventional humidity and temperature sensors, not seen in the figure, in contact with the environment inside the body to measure at all times both the temperature value and the degree of humidity.
 According to the foregoing, a steam-saturated environment is created inside the cylindrical body 1 which allows, as stated, the almonds to acquire the right amount of humidity for correctly elasticizing them. This parameter, together with suitable temperature control in furtherance of keeping it below approximately 60° C. to prevent unwanted scalding thereof, determines the changes in rotating speed of the spindle 3 to obtain an exposure time of the almonds to steam that is the most suitable for the purposes sought. Furthermore, keeping the almond in the mentioned environmental conditions allows achieving other additional advantages, such as obtaining a cleaner environment than when hot water is used with a subsequent saving in water consumption, also saving energy and further allowing self-cleaning of the machine.
 The almonds thus elasticized with just the "right" humidity content for the sought fragmenting or cutting purposes, need much less drying time than in traditional processes, which, as stated, also results in considerable energy saving.
 It is not considered necessary to extend the content of the present description so that a person skilled in the art can understand its scope and the advantages derived from it, as well as to carry out the practical embodiment of its object.
 Notwithstanding the foregoing, and given that the description provided corresponds to only one preferred embodiment, it will be understood that it is possible to introduce, within the essential nature of the invention, multiple modifications and variations to detail, which will likewise be comprised within the scope of the invention, and these modifications and variations may particularly affect features such as the shape, size or the manufacturing materials, or any other modifications and variations can be introduced that do not alter the invention as it has been described and defined in the following claims.
Patent applications by Jose Vicente Roig Borrell, Denia ES
Patent applications in class Automatic control or time means
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